Monday 27 May 2019

Remembering a brave Sligo woman

A large number of people attended a ceremony in Dromore West on Saturday where a commemorative plaque was unveiled to honour the memory of Hannah Rutledge Ormsby, the only Irishwoman to die in the Spanish Civil War.

Speaking at the event Cllr Declan Bree, said it was fitting that the people of Dromore West should come together to remember one of their own - a nurse who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war against fascism in Europe.

"Hannah Rutledge Ormsby, who was better known as Ruth, answered an appeal to travel to Spain in 1937 to tend to wounded Spanish Republicans and members of the International Brigades who were fighting to defend the fledgling Spanish democracy against General Franco's Fascist rebels.

"Having survived unimaginable conditions on the battlefields it was a terrible tragedy that she lost her life in a fire in a medical aid apartment block in Barcelona in May 1938." he said.

"Most of the International Brigaders who died in Spain, were like Ruth Ormsby, buried in unmarked graves while Franco and his regime sought to obliterate their memories.

"On their return home to Ireland the heroes of the Connolly Column and the International Brigade who survived the war were shabbily treated by official Ireland.

"They were blacklisted, hounded by clerical authorities, unable to find employment, many of them had to take the emigrant boat to survive.

"In this context it is fitting, that eighty years after her tragic death, we gather here in her native Dromore West to remember this brave, determined and principled Sligo woman." said Cllr Bree.

As a traditional Irish lament was played on flute by Gregory Daly, the commemorative plaque was unveiled by Joseph Ormsby and Mary Mason, a nephew and niece of Ruth Ormsby. The President of the Friends of the International Brigades Ireland (FIBI) Mr Eddie O'Neill, told those present that the conditions under which Ruth Ormsby and her comrades worked were often unbearable.

During the Summer, the sun scorched the soil around them and helped spread illnesses among patients weakened by gunshot wounds and shrapnel injuries. He said that Ruth Ormsby had "secured her place in the pantheon of Irish women who went out in the world to make a difference."

Mr John Bruen of FIBI paid tribute all those who had assisted in organising the event and he particularly thanked the members of the local committee including Mr Blair Feeney, Mr Cillian Rogers, Ms Bernie Gallagher and Ms Imelda Peppard.

The ceremony concluded with local musicians Cara and Tommie McGee performing a slow air on accordion and flute.

Sligo Champion